you think of that certain style of classic jazz guitar that is smooth,
soulful, melodic, flowing and immediately likeable, you think of names
like Wes Montgomery, Barney Kessel, George Benson, Kenny Burrell, Earl
Klugh and Larry Carlton. Now
Lloyd Gregory has taken his place on that list of illustrious jazz
guitarists. On his fourth
album, Free Falliní, Gregory tips his hat to those who
influenced him while carving out his own distinctive style that also
includes hints of his R&B roots.
is comprised of traditions, even when mixed with innovations,"
Gregory says, "so, of course, every musician is building upon
sounds that came before. I admire and respect those jazz guitarists and I learned a
lot from them. But my influences also include early soul innovators like
Curtis Mayfield, many of the guitarists in the various Motown artist's
bands, and Ike Turner. Going
even further, I have been inspired by rock'n'rollers from Chuck Berry
and Bo Diddley through Hendrix to Eddie Van Halen.
And on the other end of the spectrum I have been influenced by
acoustic players who bridged between jazz, Latin and classical like
Django Reinhardt, Bola Sete, Andres Segovia and Manitas de Plata.
Even so, I never sat down and simply learned other guitaristsí
solos off their albums. Instead,
I studied and absorbed their styles in a more general sense."
Gregory, a popular entertainer on the San Francisco/Bay Area music scene
for several decades, has an instrumental sound that may be the epitomy
of smooth, but it also contains subtle elements of classic soul music
due to his early career as an R&B performer, especially the years he
spent touring extensively while serving as the musical director for The
Ballads, Natural Four and Jesse James, and performing on their albums.
also has recorded with Martha Reeves, MC Smoothe and Freddie Stewart (Sly
& The Family Stone); and has performed onstage with Rodney Franklin,
Stanley Clarke, George Duke, Gerald Albright, Lenny Williams (Tower of
Power), Freda Payne, The Dells, and Lowell Fulsom.
albums show his versatility. His
debut album Wonderful -- which received heavy airplay nationwide
and climbed the jazz charts in the top music industry radio publications
Radio & Records and The Gavin Report -- featured
contemporary jazz with some R&B and funk elements.
Only For You continued in that vein with some tunes
featuring his acoustic guitar playing and others showcasing Gregory on a
solid-body electric. His
third album was a change of pace as the title, Solo Guitar,
indicates. The CD features
Lloyd alone on acoustic playing standards like "Sophisticated
Lady" and "Ainít Misbehavin" for audiences that have
come to know that side of him from his solo concerts.
But Gregory most often performs live with an ensemble, and many
of those musicians make appearances on his new Free Falliní
disc (on the Integy Entertainment label).
However, on the album Lloyd primarily plays his Ovation Custom
Legend round-back acoustic guitar while at concerts with his band he
likes to rock a bit harder and usually he plays a Yamaha electric.
available in stores and at www.lloydgregorymusic.com.
features a dozen tunes, mostly originals, plus covers of
Thelonious Monk's jazz standard "'Round Midnight" and George
Gershwin's "I Love You Porgy."
The material ranges from the rapid percussive sound of "Kermudgen"
(which also includes a flute solo) to the beautiful ballad "Snow
House," one of the few tracks with Lloyd playing both acoustic and
electric guitar, was written in Stevie Wonder's living room.
on the album include bassist Eric Smith (Destiny's Child), bassist Gary
Calvin (Jean-Luc Ponty, Jeff Lorber), drummer Billy Johnson (Santana,
Frankie Beverly & Maze), drummer Ritchie Aguan (The Whispers),
multi-instrumentalist Felton Pilate (MC Hammer, Con Funk Shun), pianist
Glenn Pearson (Boys Choir of Harlem), keyboardist Percy Scott (The
Whispers), flutist Roger Glenn (Mongo Santamaria) and other top Bay Area
grew up in Cleveland with music a major part of his life -- at home (his
mother played piano and Lloyd started at age five), at church (his
grandfather was a minister) and at school (Lloyd played trombone, drums
and cello -- the latter from elementary school through high school).
Gregory began learning guitar at age 10, and through high school
played guitar and piano in a R&B band covering James Brown, Curtis
Mayfield and The Temptations. Lloyd's
senior year he moved to Berkeley, California, and put together a band
called The Aztecs (Sly Stone joined them onstage one time).
band won a talent contest where Gregory was spotted by the manager of
The Ballads, who got Lloyd in the musician's union and made him the
vocal group's musical director for several national tours playing on the
same bills with Smokey Robinson & The Miracles, The Four Tops,
Stevie Wonder, James Brown, Aretha
Franklin, Gladys Knight & The Pips and many others.
early experience taught Gregory how to be a band leader and it led to
tours with other R&B acts. At
one point he paid the rent by playing in San Francisco strip clubs with
former members of Santana. He
also did a USO tour of Japan, and toured with Mary McCrary (Edwin
Hawkins Singers, New Generation), Maxine Howard, Shirley Jones (Diana
Ross) and jazz-poet Oscar Brown, Jr.
Over the years Gregory and his band have been joined on-stage by
artists such as Bernard Purdie (James Brown, Aretha Franklin, George
Benson) and Gaylord Birch (Graham Central Station, Pointer Sisters).
As a studio musician in Los Angeles, Gregory worked with producer
Richard Perry and played sessions with top musicians such as Klaus
Voorman (The Beatles), Arthur Adams (B.B. King, Quincy Jones), Harvey
Mason (Herbie Hancock, George Benson) and Joe Sample (The Crusaders).
Also as a session player Lloyd played on a Latin-jazz album by
The Funky Aztecs.
has played on several albums by upcoming blues artists including Zakiya
Hooker (John Lee's daughter), Sugarpie Desanto and Maxine Howard.
In addition, Gregory studied under Warren Nunes and took Masters
Class Seminars from Barney Kessel and Howard Roberts.
On Gregory's first two albums he had musical guests that included
Felton Pilate, Rodney Franklin, harmonica player Norton Buffalo (Steve
Miller) and top session percussionist Ken Nash.
When Lloyd tackled his acoustic Solo Guitar album, he
found inspiration in the music of Bola Sete, Christopher Parkening and
Juan Sereno. Other
influences through the years have included Al Dimeola, John McLaughlin,
Mel Brown, Oscar Peterson, Lester Young, Chet Atkins and Stanley Clarke.
has studied and taught martial arts (Tae Kwon Do -- the Korean system of
Karate) for more than 20 years. He
has studied under master Byong Yu and attained a Second Degree Black
Belt. "Through martial
arts I learned to first start with the physical training, then the
mental training and finally the spiritual training.
This led me to an on-going period of spiritual exploration and
meditation. At the same
time I have studied certain aspects of music including harmonic
structure, rhythms, arranging and especially the vibrations of sound,
and how all of this is linked to the body and to the spirit."
Most of the arrangements on Free Falliní were created in the studio as a result of the input and interplay of the musicians on each tune. "I only give the band the basic structure of the piece, just enough of a roadmap to get started, because I want them to each be creative themselves. We take the seed, water it and allow it to grow. We nurture the music with love. Hopefully each listener feels what went into the music and can take some of that away with them."